Thursday, 31 July 2014

I married a logger

   Gord had two seasonal jobs when I met him.  The first was his spring/summer/fall job on a gravel crusher.  He left that over nine years ago and hasn't missed it yet.  The second was in the bush operating a skidder.  Basically he hauled trees around and stacked them in piles.  He always brought firewood home on the weekend and I loved the smell of him when he walked in the door.   The smell of sawdust and diesel was oddly appealing :)  He actually liked that job, a lot.  There are times he wishes he could go back for a few days just for fun.  Who knew that 9 years later he would have cut down more trees than he would want to count.

   We bought our land 7 years ago and it was fully treed.  Completely, fully treed with spruce and poplar.  Not little swampy trees and sticks either.  We (Gord) also decided that we could clear the land with a ..........chainsaw.   So he faithfully started cutting out a driveway and eventually the plot for House #1.   He started when Nathan was just a toddler, so I was home with three kids while Gord would work Saturdays or after work.  He loved seeing the progress, I was a little less eager.  I really had nothing to do with that land but I was excited to see him excited.

 Beginning of our driveway.  Gord cut it out one year 
and the next year went back to fresh growth.

 Eventually this......

 turned into this.....

and finally, into this.

   I repeat, by hand, with a chainsaw and 7 year old Taylor.  We had a fair amount of firewood from this project, but that's alright.  I'm a bit of a fanatic with my wood stove.  Gord reminded my that his brothers would most likely have paid to haul in machinery to get it all done in 2 days instead of 2 years.  "But think of the work it provides and the character it builds", I think I said.

   Fast forward a few years and work started again on the side of the property we wanted to keep.  Again, fully treed.  It was a little easier this time because I could help.  We would spend Saturdays hauling wood or building massive fires to get rid of the debris.  There were many Sundays when the hard chairs in Church were not pleasant.  Bending over and throwing firewood is hard on a few large muscles.  The kids started hauling firewood on sleds when the snow fell and it's amazing how much they helped.  After clearing a new driveway, the shop site, and finally the house plot, I can say we are DONE DONE DONE with cutting down trees.  Oh I still see the odd one that bugs me, but we are so tired of hauling, splitting, and stacking wood.  I have loved working with Gord, but I am glad to be in the final phase of our 7 year project.  I am also proud to say that I have had a major hand, in this project.  But Gord gets all the credit when it comes to summing up the last 7 years of work.   He has had a vision for this land that I never dreamed of and I am getting excited to see it taking shape.

Our current state

   When I saw this photo I couldn't believe it was done by hand, and you can't even see the shop or the driveway.  A little determination goes a long way.  And as long as we don't think about the time and energy we could have saved ourselves by using machinery, we're pretty happy with what has been accomplished.  I was once lamenting the fact that our kids don't have enough daily chores, like animals and such.   Gord responded "We don't have animals, we have trees".  We will have work for years, if we stay that long.  There will always be deadfall to clean up, or leaning trees to cut down, and maybe, after years of asking and begging, I will have chickens.  And Gord will make sure that the chicken coop is tucked waaaaay back in the trees where he can't see it or smell it :)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Saskatoons, Swords, and Stiches

   Yesterday I finally confessed to Gord that I have a berry picking addiction.  He has already accused me of this several times so his response to me was that he could check into therapy :) I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the hunt for a good patch and the thrill that comes with picking a pails full.  This time of year as we drive down gravel roads I am always looking and at times do the whole "Stop the car!  Stop the car!" scene from *kea.  I  get a rush when I descend upon a beautiful patch.  I have a feeling the only reason he puts up with me is that there is usually a pie or dessert as an end product.  This year the wild strawberries have not been good.  The past few years I have picked ice cream pails full and what we didn't eat or turn into jam I froze.  I had to thaw my last pail and make a batch of jam for Gord, he was rather thankful.  Anyway I didn't think the saskatoons would be great this year because of the lack of rain.  To my surprise they are thriving, maybe a little smaller than last year, but there are hordes of them!

  I have gone picking three times within two days and never for more than a few hours.  I am scheming how I am going to make it out there again today.  Now my children do not seem to share my fondness for this pastime.  Something about it being hot and the grass being scratchy, and bugs...etc.  I never really notice once I'm in the zone.  But this year, like it or not, they will have to pick a few and they  do a really good job once they get started.  Cleaning the berries is another issue entirely and I did avoid cleaning my pails until yesterday.  Gord came home and looked at everything on the counter and I'm stammering for words while I try to explain that 8 gallons of berries is perfectly normal.  After supper I finally sat down to clean them which is never as much fun as the initial picking but it's still rewarding.  The sun is out again today so I will make time to go pick more pails.  I pick two minutes from home so after the kids are done their pail I bring them home and Taylor is old enough to stay with them for an hour or two.  Plus I have my phone with me so it's safe enough, unless I have a run-in with a bear.   It hasn't happened yet but I always make sure my van is close enough to make a mad dash for it if that happens.  Safety before sanity ;)

  While I was inside with my berries everyone else was outside with Gord.  The boys were having sword fights and playing on our dirt piles.  All of you with boys, is it just mine or is the whole sword thing normal?  Mine are constantly having battles and I have to admit I think it's awesome to watch them play the hero.  I love that our boys find something valiant in being a knight.  We have often warned them about being careful but alas,  we finally had a casualty.  I heard a very shrill scream so I looked out the window, but Gord could see what was going on so I wasn't too worried.  Then Nathan came inside a little flustered and informed me that Wyatt had blood all over his hand.   Even then I was calm, after all to some kids a drop of blood is a lot of blood.  Then Gord came in with him and I realized it really was a lot of blood.  As soon as I saw the cut I knew I had to take him in.  It was a good clean cut, but almost 1" long, deep, and across his knuckle.  From past experience I know that doctors stitch wounds along joints.  By this time he wasn't crying anymore, and I don't think he was really in pain.  So at 10pm I drove to a small hospital only 30 minutes away.  I love small hospitals, well as much as anyone can love a hospital.  The staff is usually really good and I only got one odd glare when I said "No" to being up to date with vaccines.  But that look made me a little uncomfortable.  I realize I don't have to defend our stand against not vaccinating and they are required to ask, but still, I felt like a kid being reprimanded.  Anyway, that could be why they sent me home with an entire tube of ****sporin, and that stuff is expensive!  Wyatt was a trooper while they stitched him up.  Thankfully they do a topical freezing which takes most of the sting out of the needle they give for the actual freezing, but he did feel it.  He sat so still while the tears came down and I held him close.  I know nothing of being a hospital mom and watching my child go through round after round of needles and tests.  To you mother's that have gone through that it, you have my greatest respect.

   All in all he officially has his first wound with a grand total of 5 stitches, which in his mind is really cool because he's 5.  I really envy the simplicity of a  child's logic and reasoning sometimes.  I doubt this will keep the swords at bay, but hopefully a lesson in safety has been learned.  I have a feeling he will be getting the royal treatment from his siblings this morning :) I love that God was watching over us yesterday and His hand of protection kept things from being more serious.  I love that we can take something like a few stitches and turn it into a conversation with our children.  I love that we have His assurance that He is always with us.  I know these minor incidents are often training for the larger trials that are inevitable, and not just for my children but for me as well.  I don't know what this day will hold, but I know who is in control and I am thankful for His mercy!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Staying humble

  Have you ever heard the saying "Kids will make you proud and keep you humble?"  It's generally true if you have more than one child.  See I know people you have had an almost perfect first child (yes I know that's bad theology, but you get the point) and then their eyes are opened when baby #2 comes along.  Thankfully I never had the perfect child syndrome.   Unfortunately I also harshly judged my first child simply because whenever something wrong happened I assumed that he was at fault.  In my defence when he was the only mobile infant around at 6 months old,  it was hard to stay relaxed with others.  I would scan for open bathroom doors and breakables within reach immediately upon entry into people's homes.  Sorry to all of you who experienced my paranoia back then.  But I know I  wasn't the only one wondering what was up with my child.  Here's a few phrases I heard from well intentioned people:

Does he have worms?
Have you tried not giving him sugar?
Is he always like this or just really excited now?
Have you ever considered having him tested for ADD?
Wow, we've never seen one like this before!

  Bad bad phrases for a first-time, anxious mom to hear!  I have often said that I wish I could have another like him just to see if I would handle it better the next time around ;) This was a baby that DID NOT cuddle, at all.  Not even in the hospital.  After he was born and washed they put him in the baby bed where he stretched out to his full length;  there was no more fetal position for him.  Family came to see him and wanted to swaddle him but he wiggled so badly that finally we realized this kid needed his space and freedom.  I do not remember cuddling him, but I know that he would fall asleep on the living room floor while I vacuumed!  He has always been distinctly different and that used to make me afraid.  I did not like standing out...I didn't really want to be different.  And then God blessed us with Taylor :)  He knew exactly what I needed then and as each baby came along there were other areas of my life to refine.  Each child has brought out the absolute worst in me, but for a good reason.  I see MY sin, I see MY selfish will.  But He doesn't just use my children to refine me, he uses family, friends and pain.  Everything in my life can be used to grow me, if I let it.  And that second chance I just talked about, yeah, have you met my youngest??


     I am so grateful for this bunch; they forgive so easily and love so freely.  I am a proud mother...and will most likely be humbled again before the day is over.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

My Disclaimer

   Things not to expect on this blog

  1. Perfectly edited, non-blurry photos.  I have friends who do that and do it beautifully.  I know my boundaries and you will see blurry pics with bad lighting, messy backgrounds, and sometimes just plain weird pictures.  This is my life and it does not look like a magazine.
  2. Serious things only.  Life is serious and important but God also provides much laughter which brings me to point 3.
  3. Children.  I will not complain about my children or their mistakes or struggles.  They really are a blessing and I will respect their  young lives by not writing about their faults.  That is their story to share one day.   Anything I write about them will remain light hearted.  If you want to know how we handle issues, come for coffee ;)
  4. Husband bashing.  We are all imperfect so obviously my husband is also, but I have the utmost respect and love for him.   I would never want to embarrass him or share anything too personal.   
  5. Perfection.  I struggle with fear and sin.  If you want to know how God is refining me then ask....I am a firm believer that our mistakes and past history can be so important in encouraging others who are also struggling with sin or damaged hearts.   Joy can come from sorrow if we allow God to work in us.  
  6. An organized thought pattern.  I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling, shop-dwelling mother of four.   What is a complete paragraph?  Here's an example of what a phone conversation with a sister can look like.  "What are your plans for the day? Wyatt put some clothes on.  Are you staying home?  No you cannot have a cookie for breakfast.  I thought I would do laundry and bake muffins.  Chloe, I'm on the phone"  I am confused reading that myself.  Obviously I have not trained my children sufficiently in this department.
  7. House-free posts.  Sorry, you will be subjected to posts about the house going up, and hopefully give me some advice along the way.
  If this doesn't scare you off or disappoint you then I hope you enjoy the read :)


Monday, 14 July 2014

Last week....

   Last week the kids and I went to pick strawberries.  Those of you who know me well probably think it was wild berries, but no these were the really big cheater berries.  This summer has not been kind to the wild berries as it has been so dry.  I am thankful we have a beautiful u-pick as an alternative.  My mom used to make us pick wild strawberries, or any fruit really, in the summer.   I don't think she really thought we would be that helpful when we were younger, but I found out that was her way of keeping us busy so she could have her quiet moments with The Lord.  I now do the same thing.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the kids could be a huge help :) What an added blessing!

  We grant our children a pittance for a monthly allowance.  Once they turn six they will receive their age in dollars every month, not every week.  So our oldest gets the grande total of $12 a month....which really buys nothing but they do tithe off of that.  Obviously God does not need their dollar, but that's not the point is it?  When a sibling's birthday comes around they are required to purchase a gift out of their funds which, in some, produces a bit of grumbling.  We do help if needed, but usually they can find something small.   We had one ask if he could go to the thrift store, aka "Junk Store", to purchase a gift.  After I asked him if that's where he would like his gifts to come from he promptly changed his tune and then went and bought his brother a rather amazing gift :)  It has been awesome to see grumbling attitudes change to one of excitement and even pride (the good kind) when their sibling opens a gift that has been thought out and bought with their own money.  And from time to time they can dive into their savings and buy something for themselves.

   Imagine my surprise when the oldest three all wanted to purchase their own pail of strawberries.  My 12 year old asking to buy berries instead of Lego??  Made me smile a little.  When I asked what their plans were they all said they wanted a huge Strawberry Dish (berries, cream, sugar) and their own jam.  Well, there's definitely worse things to blow money on so off to the field we went.  I did extend a little grace to them as the pails would be a little more than their allowance, but I figured they didn't need to know that :) The weather wasn't great but they picked their own pails and then helped me with mine.  They did an amazing job!  Maybe the donuts helped?  The total haul was 12 pails; we picked a few for others.   The rule is you clean your own berries so they got to it at home.   I broke my own rule....ahem...and they cleaned most of mine ;)  I think they were listening to Down Gilead Lane to pass the time, and I was taking pictures so I could accurately document everything.

  All in all it was a huge success and will no doubt happen again next year.  Their massive bowls of strawberry dish were consumed over a few days and savoured down to the last drop.  I am sure it tasted better because they did the work ;)

   And now a confession.  I console myself with the fact that I helped pay for their berries so that I don't feel too guilty about not sharing my latest find with them.

  This yogurt is soooooo delicious if you love coconut!  I am thoroughly enjoying this pail and passing on this info to you people so you can share in the goodness, as long as you buy your own pail.  Or come for coffee.  I would share if you came for coffee, but hurry ;)  I'm not lying when I say they won't be eating this either.  Why give them this if they are still content with regular ice-cream?  I am still of the persuasion that if a child really looks at a hamburger in the same way as a steak, then give them the hamburger.  One day they will realize what they are missing and then it will have value for them.  Until then, it's an effective way to keep the grocery bill down.

  This post is meant to reflect my last week so here's one last photo for you which pretty much sums up how things have been around here.

I love the irony of the label on the container

  It has been HOT HOT HOT here.  I cannot remember  having +30 temperatures for a week before, but that's what we have.  If you don't work outside or cook inside,  it's pretty good.  Unfortunately this is the week that Gord is working outside on our house...I will be watching though, from a safe distance with a cold drink.  He's working with his brother and I would just be in the way right??  My job is to keep him hydrated and fed and  I will be cheering on from the sidelines...right beside the sprinkler.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Men vs Women

   Gord and I will be spending A LOT of time working together this summer.  We want to be able to do as much as we can on the house ourselves.  Gord works a full day elsewhere so it will have to be done after he's home.  It's a very good thing that he's easy to work with and I like spending that time with him.  When we were first married and doing reno's on our mobile we didn't always agree on which route to go....but being older and wiser now, we are usually on the same page.  If we come to a point where we disagree neither of us will make a big deal about it.  For example, I get the last say in my kitchen setup even though he's paying for it ;) and likewise, he can do what he likes with the basement.  It's a fair trade.  I am so glad we didn't build when we were first married as our opinions would have collided far more often.  My sister Mitch shared a little gem of wisdom yesterday, "It takes about 15 years for spouses to stop trying to change each other."  I will add to that and say that I know it's far better for God to change my husband rather than his flawed wife.  So Gord and I have come to the conclusion that it's just a house and not worth fighting over.  That philosophy worked well on our first build, so we will just continue with that.

  There are times when he shakes his head in disbelief at my choices.  Last week we started putting on  this tarry, sticky membrane on our exterior basement walls.  He was not so excited to work outside in the hot sun, I was the opposite.  First, this is the first big project that we are doing without toddlers or babies and I get to help.  I enjoy doing manual labour outside, it's a good change.  I like being able to help on a regular basis.  Second, after a long drawn out winter I am so thankful for the heat we've had the last few weeks.  An added bonus is that a little colour on the skin never hurts either.  As soon as I saw the sun coming out I ran and changed so that I could cash in on the sunshine.  I did have to laugh when I realized our clothing and footwear choices are extreme opposites.

   Obviously someone has never experienced how awkward it is to bare your pasty white calves and feet in a skirt on a Sunday after hiding them in nylons all winter.  Thankfully we weren't working with anything heavy that requires steel-toed boots,  I would have been sensible then.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Home is where the heart is

   Home.  It's not always what we think it is.  Home isn't just a house or location.  It doesn't need to have a long history of memories or the luxury of being in one place for 5 years.  I know people who have stayed in one place all their lives, or maybe moved twice.  Not in my world, and yet I can still say that everywhere we have lived has been 'home.'

   Gord and I celebrated our 14th anniversary yesterday.  We didn't do anything grand to celebrate, but we did spend the day together.....taking all the bracing off of our basement walls.  Woohoo!

   14 years brings a lot of changes, no matter who you are.  We lived in La Crete the first 5 years in a cute little 14 wide mobile.  I loved it and was perfectly happy to live there, and it quickly felt like home.  4 years into married life, one child under our belt,  and another on the way I realized that it wasn't home if Gord was never there.  Sure I had plenty to do, friends, family and a Church but Gord was gone all the time.  One Christmas he was home for 9 days in a row and after he left it hit me, for my husband to be with us everyday was truly what home was about.   I'm still amazed at how it all worked, but the long and short of it was that Gord and I were both completely at peace to move from his hometown and close to the city of Grande Prairie.  The first 6 months were hard, everything was new, but every night I went to sleep in awe that Gord was home and had a normal work schedule.  We haven't regretted our move one bit yet ;)

  We have lived in the Grande Prairie area over 9 years now, and are living in our fourth place.  That makes for an average of moving once every 20 months...because what's more fun that moving??!! Honestly I don't enjoy moving and I don't like change, so all things considered most of the moves have gone well.  First we had a finished house in town, but we knew that if God made a way we would love to be on a small piece of land.  Well, God opened the door to buy a mobile and put it on some rented land.  I cried the first time I took a shower in that awful smelly water, but it's amazing how quickly you can get used to something.  In the end I loved it there and would have stayed for years, but Gord convinced me that it would be wise to buy land and build.  After being in the mobile for 3 years we moved into the house we built.  Again I cried the first night or two in the new house and Gord thought I was crazy.  We only stayed in the house for 2 years and then we subdivided our land and sold the house with a few acres so that we could build again and, hopefully, stay in one place.  But building the house would have been too simple, so we built a shop first.  We have been living in the shop for almost 18 months now, and once again, I'm quite content here.  Gord, however, has plans for this shop, none of which requires rug on the floor or bookshelves in a corner.  So once again we are building and we are only at the very beginning stages.  It's all a little overwhelming to look at the big picture, so instead I am taking the mature route of burying my head in the sand and taking it  one day at a time.

   The shop has by far been the most unique place to call home and I have rather enjoyed people's reactions.  Children wish they could live here, men feel sorry for Gord that he can't use his shop, and women are relieved that this isn't their reality.  All in all it has worked far better than we dreamed it would...minus the amount of spiders and ants we get in here.  And the dust....that awful loose dust that never disappears.

 Cannot complain about the space in the kitchen

 I love having my cast iron pans on the wall

 Chloe and Wyatt's room in the mezzanine

 Nathan and Taylor's room

 The view from above

 Check out the exposed rafters in my cozy room

   Moving has it's good points, for example it makes you go through all your stuff and downsize.  Getting rid of things I don't use is always a sense of accomplishment for me, but Gord gets worried that I'm going to get rid of something we actually need.  I may or may not have snuck out a few loads at different times :) The shop has been excellent that way; we only have what we use regularly.  I really hope I can keep that mentality in the house but when you have the space things seem to collect all by themselves.  Lord willing we will be in the new house in 6 months or so and I will say goodbye to the shop and I will probably miss the times we lived here.  Not because of the building, but the time that has gone by.  Time goes by so fast and each move has made me aware of all the changes in our lives from one move to the next; turns out I'm not so eager to have my kids grow up anymore.  The plan is to stay in the next house indefinitly but God controls that and given our history I'm sure we will move at some point.  I wonder at the changes that will happen in our family over the next few years.  We have one child bordering on the teenage years and the youngest will be starting 'school' in a few months.  Yes time flies, and the faster it goes the more I want to enjoy it and trust that God is leading us wherever we live.  Regardless of the building we live in, 'home' has become where my family is and though I always have an adjustment period after moving, I know that it all calms down after a while and once again we are at 'home.'